As World of Wonder‘s resident senior citizen, I am happy to report thatStonewall House, the first affordable LGBTQ senior housing complex in New York City, the largest in the country, opened this week. There are 145 apartments for residents 62 years or older who make 50 percent or less of the NYC median income. The building has 54 studios and 91 one-bedroom apartments, with 25 percent of those occupied by formerly homeless older people, who will be among the first most in-need tenants to move into the building. A community center on the ground floor will be run by SAGE, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ elders.
Because of New York City’s Fair Housing mandate, the building is not limited to a certain sexual origination, but its goal is to form an inclusive community that can help LGBTQ seniors, who are more likely to face housing discrimination and harassment. Mayor Bill de Blasio placed an emphasis on developing LGBTQ-friendly housing for elders as part his housing plan for New York City.
A report by the Equal Rights Center in 2014 found that 48 percent of same-sex older couples applying for senior housing were subjected to discrimination. Studies also show that 25 percent of transgender older adults experience housing discrimination based their gender identities. With a shortage of affordable housing for older people generally, and the discrimination and prejudice LGBTQ elders faced compounded their problems. That is why this building is so important. Authorities had to cap the applications to live at Stonewall House when the number reached 2,000,
Michael Adams of SAGE:
”There are more than 100,000 LGBTQ elders living in New York City, many facing significant housing challenges. Many, many more folks need this kind of housing. It’s important we build more of it and provide the training and support in a mainstream senior housing context, so all housing is welcoming of LGBTQ people. People will be able to live their lives freely and openly in this building. We see our elders as heroes and want them to be treated as such when living in their own homes. That’s what we want to accomplish with this building.”
There are an estimated 1.5 million LGBTQ people over 65 living in the USA currently, and that number will double by 2030. Studies show nearly half of those living with HIV are over the age of 50 and 53 percent of LGBTQ seniors feel socially isolated in their environments. Stonewall House was designed as a place where everyone has the right to age-in-place without fear of harassment, discrimination, and even violence, especially when many states do not have laws that prevent housing discrimination in regards to sexual orientation and gender identities.
This summer, LAMDA Legal, a gay advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the Glen Saint Andrew Living Community, a senior residential facility in Illinois, for failing to protect a disabled lesbian woman from harassment, discrimination and violence. The 68-year-old resident, moved into the complex in 2014 after her partner of 30 years had died of cancer. Soon after, residents called her names and physically assaulted her.
A second, SAGE-supported LGBTQ-friendly elder residential facility will open in the Bronx later in 2020. It will have 83 apartments.
Stonewall House received financing from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, New York City Housing Development Corporation and Wells Fargo. It was developed under New York City’s Senior Affordable Rental Apartments (SARA) program.
SAGE will also operate the SAGE Center Brooklyn at Stonewall House, a 7,000 square-foot community center located on the property’s ground floor.
The name of the new building is meant to honor those who started the modern LGBTQ movement with the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Adams:
“Those folks who were young folks back then, many of them people of color, transgender or gender non-conforming, today they are our elders and they are our heroes. Today represents a historic milestone for our LGBTQ elders who truly have fought for so long for the support and respect they deserve.”